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'Fins DC: Alonso's shown 'great' instincts, leadership

When Miami swung a trade with the Eagles in March to acquire cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso, the move was met with mixed emotions by Dolphins fans.

Maxwell struggled mightily in Philadelphia last season, while Alonso -- a sensational rookie in 2013 -- has never been the same since a pair of knee injuries that limited him to just one start over the past two seasons.

"I feel great," Alonso said Wednesday, per the team's official website, emphasizing that his twice-injured left ACL wouldn't prevent him from getting back to where he was as a rookie, saying: "That is the goal, if not get that, then do better than that. I'm just trying to just keep improving and get back to myself."

Anyone who watched Alonso's rookie season with the Bills couldn't imagine where he'd be today. On his third team in as many seasons, the young linebacker -- who put together a batch of fascinating game tape in Buffalo -- was a shadow of himself in Philly last season, which wasn't a surprise considering the wear and tear on his body.

It's easy to forget, but Alonso in 2013 became the first player since Derrick Brooks in 1999 to finish with at least 150 tackles, four picks, two sacks and two fumble recoveries.

Whether Alonso can regain his speed and cutting ability remains to be seen, but The Miami Herald reported in May that Dolphins coaches "loved" what they saw from the linebacker, noting that he "exceeded all expectations."

"What I've seen is he has got great instincts," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said this week. "He's a long, tall, Mike backer that has great instincts. He covers a bunch of ground with his movement. He has great eyes. He has been a great leader in the huddle, and that has been surprising. He has been very vocal. He has been assertive in the huddle. That was good to see from him."

Miami's offseason trade with the Eagles will be judged on how Maxwell and Alonso work together to transform a milquetoast defense. If Alonso can morph back into the player he was at the start, the Dolphins might have a steal on their hands.

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